Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
Some weeks it’s hard to find outside-the-box or just less-than-obvious stats to point out for why the Bucs have performed the way they have this season. Like Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter says, sometimes it’s as frustrating as accepting the fact that the players have to go out and do their jobs – there aren’t always analytics to dive into of players or coaches just not doing their jobs. But this week we have no shortage of statistics to highlight. This week we have almost too many. But that’s okay. I’m going to point them all out and give them the praise they deserve. You know why? Because the Bucs won, and when you accomplish the goals, touting them only comes naturally, even for those who observe them from afar.
Stat No. 1: Mike Evans’ 1,000 yards
This week Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans went over the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the fifth time in five years, his five years in the league. Of the players who have also started their careers with such consistency, the list is as long as two: A.J. Green and Randy Moss. With Evans’ fifth consecutive 1,000-yard season, he now ties Green, and is one short of Moss.
Evans would tell you himself that, while the accomplishment is cool, his own words stated, “I’m suppose to do that. I’m the No. 1 receiver.” Where Evans is right, especially considering how pass-heavy Tampa Bay’s offense has been since his arrival in 2014, there is a reason why they call it an honor to be in such company – because that’s what it is.
Evans often gets overlooked as one of the best receiver in the league. He’s not as quick as Antonio Brown, he’s not as athletic as Julio Jones, and he doesn’t make the spectacular catches on a regular basis like Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. But to cut the list at just five guys, as we love to do in this “power ranking” age of sports fandom, does an injustice to many, especially Evans.
No matter how you slice it, no matter how you many select before him in a fantasy draft or Madden draft format, Evans is a talent that can impact any game he’s in.
Whether he’s in your Top 5 in wide receivers or not, he’s in a list of only three after his game this past Sunday against the 49ers. On that list, his place is not debatable, and with health on his side, his name might be at the top someday.
Stat No. 2: Jason Pierre-Paul’s 10.5 sacks
A lot more went into the double-digit sack drought than just the fact that no one had recorded double-digit sacks for the Buccaneers since 2005. It was the details of it that made it so hard to accept.
Anything that referenced the Bucs’ Super Bowl Era here since 2018 was a thorn in the side of Bucs fans. That was nearly 15 years ago, and the lack of a double-digit sacker, which hadn’t happened since Simeon Rice had 14 in 2005, was just a constant reminder of what Tampa Bay had and what it let go when things were still better than they ever have been since.
It wasn’t just the fact that there hadn’t been a double-digit sacker, it was the fact that Rice was the last guy to do it. It was the fact that every time it was brought up, you had to mention his name, and you had to think of the glory days that seemed like a lifetime ago. You have to read tweets like the ones from Rice saying that he could still come back today and give the Bucs a better chance at the double-digit marker like he did last year – and you had to think about him being right because things were that bad.
As Jon Gruden’s name swirled around the coaching circle last year, the painful gap of the last time the Buccaneers had anything successful was once again placed before them. Anytime Gruden’s name was brought up, so was old success; so was the double-digit sack drought.
Thank goodness for Jason Pierre-Paul.
The man that played his college ball right in that very stadium years and years later became the man to exorcise the demon from out of it. After recording his 10.5 sack of the season against the 49ers, you could feel a weight lifted.
You could feel like, for the first time in a long time, maybe Tampa Bay could move on from a time that only brought them success through memories.
Stat No. 3: Cairo Santos’ 100 Percent
Speaking of weights being lifted, it has to feel like the biggest relief to finally have a kicker. And I know some of you might be reading this saying, “Trevor, it’s been two games, don’t jinx it!”
Listen, forget the jinx. Make the kick. Have the mental fortitude and make the damn kick.
Cairo Santos does.
Santos said himself that the key to kicking in a new place is knocking those first couple kicks in and riding that momentum and confidence into becoming a team’s kicker. So far, as a Buccaneer, Santos is 8-for-8 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals. I’m not saying the guy is going to be perfect during his entire time in Tampa Bay, but damn, does it feel good to not think extra points are must-watch TV in the worst way anymore.
You don’t have to be afraid of a jinx. You can enjoy this one.
Stat No. 4: 2 takeaways
I remember where I was the last time the Bucs got a turnover. It was 1997, I was six years old. I had just gotten out of church with my parents and … okay, you know I’m kidding. But it sure felt like it had been ages, didn’t it?
This week the Bucs got not one, but two interceptions against the 49ers. These were the first two turnovers on defense since the beginning of the season in Week 3.
It was a relief to everyone. The players, the fans, the coaches, the GM, the owners, I’m sure they all were starting to think they had upset some sort of curse on the premises or something. But whatever happened, Ryan Smith can always hang his hat on the fact that he got the Tampa Bay defense off the schneid.
Let’s hope tasting one only makes them hungry for more.
Stat No. 5: 3 tackles for loss
Of course. Of course the week after I write about Vita Vea struggling, he has a little chat with Jason Licht and all of a sudden a fire is lit underneath him and he has the game of his career, to this point.
Vea ended the game against the 49ers with four tackles, including one sack and three tackles for loss. He also started that game, which was a call by the defensive staff to get him in there right off the bat.
Being in the starting rotation also allowed him to play in important situations with the top line like on the goal line. When the Bucs held the 49ers from scoring on the goal line in the third quarter, Vea was a big presence.
It appeared Vea was unchained that game. He wasn’t thinking about just how to re-direct a player or where to go or out-thinking his own talent like we had seen before. As I pointed out in previous weeks, Vea was getting penetration against offensive lines, he just didn’t do anything with it. On Sunday, he did, and he was another great story in a weekend full of stats that surely made Bucs fans smile.
Speaking of reason to smile, Tamp Bay’s franchise quarterback played pretty darn well, too. We go in-depth into the film on the next page.